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The Changing VA Population: Young, Active Duty and Brain Injured Harriet Katz Zeiner, PhD Harriet.Zeiner@va.gov. There’s a New Population in Town And They Require Systemic Change To Deal With Them Effectively Why? How Big Is The Problem? Why Won’t The Old Ways Work?

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The Changing VA Population: Young, Active Duty and Brain Injured Harriet Katz Zeiner, PhD


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    1. The Changing VA Population: Young, Active Duty and Brain Injured Harriet Katz Zeiner, PhD Harriet.Zeiner@va.gov

    2. There’s a New Population in Town And They Require Systemic Change To Deal With Them Effectively Why? How Big Is The Problem? Why Won’t The Old Ways Work? What Do I Have To Change To Deal Effectively With Them?

    3. While serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), military service members are sustaining multiple severe injuries as a result of explosions and blasts.

    4. Improvised explosive devices, blasts, landmines and fragments account for 65% of combat injuries • (Peake JB, N Engl J Med 2005 jan 20, 352 (3):219-222)

    5. Of these injured military personnel, 60% have some degree of traumatic brain injury http://www.dvbic.org

    6. If the War Ended Today: • 27,848 WIA • 65% of these are IED = 18,101 • 60% of IED injuries involve head injuries = 10,860 • 500 combat-wounded polytrauma patients have been treated at the 4 PRCs Currently, 10,000 people with head injury have been discharged home—and don’t know why they think, feel and behave differently * These numbers are from September 2007

    7. 10,000 people with undiagnosed mild TBI have been sent home. • Mild TBI refers to the time period of unconsciousness, not to the effects on the person’s life. • Mild TBI can have MAJOR impact on marriages, jobs, relationships, children and roles • This is not a political issue—it is a major health care problem in America, which the VA is charged to deal with.

    8. Occult (Hidden) Brain Injury • How many people with TBI you find depends on whether or not you are looking • Degree to which you look is the degree to which you find • If your facility uses PTSD/BI screen, you will find them in the outpatient clinics—at a large VA the rate is 10 new cases per month

    9. Occult (Hidden) Brain Injury • Half the patients with head injury will be blast exposed • Half will be the result of motor vehicle accidents

    10. There are also a large number of post-combat head injuries • Look for an unusually large number of motor vehicle accidents with head injuries in recently-returned Iraq/Afghanistan returnees—within 1 month of discharge and return home. • The army reports a 70% increase in motor vehicle accidents

    11. Issues for Brain-Injured Active Duty/Vets: Problems in memory Problems in attention Problems in problem solving Problems in social appropriateness Problems in organization Problems in fatigue Slowed speed of information processing Anger outbursts

    12. What Does BI Do to People? • Unable to utilize the medical system as it was constituted • Difficulty in maintaining social roles, marriages • Difficulty holding jobs • Difficulty in school (vocational/college)

    13. The four Traumatic Brain Injury Centers within the VA had already treated a majority of the severely combat injured requiring inpatient rehabilitation Since Desert Storm (Iraq 1) 1992

    14. The VA reorganized the TBI lead centers Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers, dividing the USA into 4 geographical zones • Palo Alto VAHCS, CA • Maguire VAMC, Richmond VA • James Haley VAMC, Tampa FL • Minneapolis VAMC, Minneapolis MN

    15. Polytrauma Network Sites (PNS) Each PNS Team consists of: • Physiarist • Neuropsychologist • Occupational Therapist • Case Manager • Social Worker • Physical Therapist • Speech Pathologist • Prosthetist

    16. VISNVA integrated system network

    17. The Mission of the Polytrauma Center • Provide comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation services for individuals with complex physical and mental health sequelae of severe and disabling trauma and provide support to their families.

    18. Intensive case management is essential to coordinate complex components of care for polytrauma patients and their families • Coordination of care from combat theater to acute hospitalization to acute rehabilitation to his/her home community ultimately MUST OCCUR SEAMLESSLY • The treatment of brain injury sequelae needs to occur before or in conjunction with rehabilitation of other disabling conditions

    19. Scope of services to include inpatient, transitional, and outpatient rehabilitation as well as: • community re-entry tailored to the individual pattern of impairment sustained in the trauma • and management of associated conditions through consultation • All levels of injury are included (Rancho Los Amigos Cognitive Levels 1-8)

    20. Iraq/Afghanistan (OIF/OEF) Post-Deployment Reminder Did the Veteran serve in OIF or OEF? Location of service Screen for PTSD Screen for Depression Screen for Alcohol Screen for ID and Chronic Symptoms Questions: Nancy Clum, X63542; Ann Narciso, X35425

    21. IED Mechanisms of Injury • 1. Dynamic pressure wave • 2. Shrapnel • 3. Acceleration / De-acceleration injury from hitting objects • 4. Crush injuries from collapsing buildings

    22. Polytrauma Sequelae Auditory: TM rupture, ossicular disruption, cochlear damage, foreign body Eye, Orbit, Face: Perforated globe, foreign body, air embolism, fractures Respiratory: Blast lung, hemothorax, pneumothorax, pulmonary contusion and hemorrhage, A-V fistulas (source of embolism), airway epithelial damage, aspiration pneumonitis, sepsis

    23. Digestive: Bowel perforation, hemorrhage, ruptured liver or spleen, sepsis, mesenteric ischemia from air embolism • Circulatory: Cardiac contusion, myocardial infarction from air embolism, shock, vasovagal hypertension, peripheral vascular injury, air embolism induced injury

    24. CNS injury: Concussion, closed and open brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury, air embolism induced injury, anoxia, hypoxia

    25. Renal injury: Renal contusion, laceration, acute renal failure due to rhabdomyolysis, hypotension, and hypovolemia • Extremity injury: Traumatic amputation, fractures, crush injuries, compartment syndrome, burns, cuts, lacerations, acute arterial occlusion, air embolism induced injury

    26. Who Are The Head Injured? • 18-25 age group • Active duty Army • Marines • 35-45 age group • National Guard • National Reserve 20% are women

    27. Effects of Military vs Civilian Culture • 1. Civil rights, privacy issues • 2. Ecological validity of military system • 3. Decisional capacity determinations • 4. Attitude toward war and injury, return to service • 5. VA regarded as “civilian”- They know their way around the military system. They are clueless about the VA (SC, C&P).

    28. Culture Clash (Old VA vs New VA) • Signs of “culture clash” • We provide something we never have before – faster than ever before (and expect gratitude for doing things so fast) • They expect no mistakes and think we are “not as efficient as the military”

    29. Culture Clash (Old VA vs New VA) • Communication among patients who band together like birds in a flock • They Google you and everything you say. Get used to being challenged—it’s a sign of their involvement in the process.

    30. They are in the early stages of adult development • Issues of late adolescence—separation, anger, appearance, jewelry, body piercing, make-up, clothes—in VA setting • First job, beginning job skills • Worried about appearance, “date-ability”—developmental task is to find a partner

    31. Problems for women in the military: Pregnancy Family with children Vocation (MOS) Friendly fire issues Sexual harassment Rape

    32. Problems for women who sustain brain injury in the military Seen as insubordinate Seen as lazy Seen as disorganized Seen as passive Frequently demoted or threatened with court martial—offered separation as an alternative

    33. Problems for women who sustain brain injury in the military Several were offered separation for pregnancy—no mention of brain injury C&P affected No service connection for brain injury

    34. Issues for Women Warriors on Polytrauma Too open and vulnerable for civilian world Don’t read social or sexual cues Give out wrong sexual cues—wrong means “unintended cues” Gumballing—saying what you think

    35. Issues for Women Warriors on Polytrauma Failure to use birth control Failure to self-protect during sex: VD, HIV No memory of pregnancy No memory of infant daughter’s first milestones

    36. Issues for Women Warriors on Polytrauma Custody battles in divorce Visitation versus care of children Supervision of children and household Driving and being dependent Financial dependence Being competent to make decisions over medical needs, legal needs, personal needs

    37. Issues for Women Warriors on Polytrauma • Women Warriors are different in the abilities they bring to war—they are not simply “little men” • Women Warriors are different in how they are treated in the military after they sustain an unrecognized head injury • Women Warriors have different social issues and place in society, and their head injuries affect them in their roles and in their place in the family and society

    38. Systemic Changes • Loss of “I just do windows” mentality—staff needs cross training—becomes not multidisciplinary but trans-disciplinary (more interesting for staff, more challenges for admin) • Greater number of competencies required—increases educational needs for staff

    39. Training of Staff Not just clinical staff—all staff needs training in: • Polytrauma • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) • Issues of late adolescence • Military vs civilian culture

    40. Systemic Changes • Development of two-tier system • Not of treatments, but of priority for treatment, equipment and support of family systems • Subversive nature of this re-organization—potential to change the entire American health care system

    41. Issues for Brain-Injured Active Duty/Vets: Problems in memory Problems in attention Problems in problem solving Problems in social appropriateness Problems in organization Problems in fatigue Slowed speed of information processing Anger outbursts

    42. One of the major difficulties in assessing BI is that symptoms of BI are not pathognomonic, and are often confused with psychiatric symptoms.

    43. This can have several negative effects: • People may be placed on inappropriate medications that do not treat the symptomatology • They can be inappropriately labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis • They have no understanding about the nature and course of the cognitive and emotional changes that have occurred

    44. For Community College: This means the presence of students who have no idea what their learning and memory characteristics are.

    45. The purpose of this next section is: • To present the most common “complaints” regarding changes in behavior, function, and personality.

    46. Teachers, family members , employers of people with Mild TBI, often complain of “personality” changes. When questioned specifically, they mention: • fatigue • anger • emotional outbursts • problems with concentration/attention • slowed information processing • memory problems

    47. Frequently Asked Questions About TBI

    48. 1. Why are people with TBI so tired all the time?

    49. Fatigue:Many of the cognitive functions, which are automatic and reflexive for people without cognitive impairment, take 2-3 times the mental effort for people with TBI. This is due to the fact that people with TBI often have to think about, and do with conscious effort, what the rest of the world does automatically, without thinking.